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Lori Janko Wilke gets ready to receive the flu shot as registered nurse Joan Fernandez reaches for rubbing alcohol to apply to Wilke’s arm in Wilke’s office in Peru on Tuesday. Winter is coming, and that means influenza soon will begin striking households throughout the Illinois Valley. Health professionals remind local residents, especially seniors and small children, to spare themselves weeks of misery and protect themselves with a shot.
Undergoing a grueling liver transplant brought an unexpected benefit to Chuck Mueller: For the past six winters, he hasn’t had so much as a sniffle. Since his lifesaving transplant, the La Salle man was ordered by his doctors to start getting the flu shot ahead of each winter season. It wasn’t something he looked forward to. “Now I want it,” said Mueller, who’s already been inoculated for the coming season. “I’ve not had a sniffle for the past six years. I may get a summer cold, but not in the winter. “I wish everybody would get it.” Local doctors hope residents will follow Mueller’s lead and get a needle stick that admittedly doesn’t tickle, but which nonetheless could spare people weeks of misery — and maybe save lives. Flu season is fast approaching and physicians, hospitals, clinics and pharmacies are pitching the inoculation to everyone except the limited number of patients who are medically excluded, such as those who suffer from egg allergies. “Everybody should get a flu shot unless there’s some reason they can’t,” Donna Morscheiser, registered pharmacist and director of Family Pharmacy in Peru, who got hers about three weeks ago. The flu is short for influenza, a respiratory disease passed from person to person through coughing and sneezing or touching contaminated surfaces such as doorknobs or telephone receivers. It’s a familiar disease, but one that Americans too frequently forget is debilitating and, in some cases, fatal. The flu can be especially serious among newborns, the elderly and people with ongoing health problems. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that people aged 6 months and older receive the flu vaccine each year. Vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk for serious flu complications, including young children, pregnant women, senior citizens and people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease. More people might get inoculated except for a misconception that the flu shot can give one the flu. Joan Fernandez, community outreach coordinator for Illinois Valley Community Hospital in Peru, said this is a persistent misconception. “It’s a dead virus we give in the flu shot,” Fernandez said. “People will fill a little achy or feverish and I tell them that’s a good thing. Your immune system is supposed to get a taste of that foreign substance and build up antibodies. It’s a good sign. It means your body is working.” The flu usually peaks in January and February, but it can start as early as October. The CDC recommends people get immunized as soon as vaccine becomes available to give the body time to build up immunity to the virus. While the flu shot does not fully ensure good health — people still can get colds if they don’t vigilantly wash hands and cover their coughs and sneezes — the shot does protect against three known strains of influenza. Fernandez noted that local residents are beginning to trickle in now that cool, rainy weather has crept into the area and folks are being reminded that winter soon will be here. “When it’s 80 degrees outside, people aren’t thinking, ‘Oh, I might get the flu,’” she said. “Now it’s kind of cold and rainy and that’s when people think it’s going to be a cold winter and they don’t want to get sick. “And we’ve got a lot of people with stuffy noses who are thinking about not getting worse.”